Globalisation vs Global Morality?
Globalisation is a dirty word, well it is if you tend to be on the left of the political spectrum, but even if you are a staunch capitalist you must have pause for thought following the populism upsurge and the apparent rejection of global capitalism.
We have seen over the past fifty years the increasing despatch of heavy industry from the West to the East and the consequent loss of jobs. There has been enormous benefits to the emerging economies of China, India and others in the east. Africa seems to have been left behind.
The export of ‘Old time skills’ from coal mining, steel-making to automotive manufacture have become much more evident in economic terms, but the effect has been lagged and it is only recently that, from the rust belt of the USA to the mining valleys of Wales that the penny seems to be dropping.
Hence the rise in populism, the realisation that Capitalism has failed the middle and working classes of the industrial west.
You might remember that I analogised that the world economy was a street and that the rich at the top end exported all their dirty jobs down the street to the poorer end, hence Bangladesh producing cheap textiles which are marketed in the richer nations at low prices. These low price commodities have brought some improved but marginal wealth to Bangladesh (for example), providing cheap product to the squeezed middle classes in ‘The West’ and provided huge profits for the global traders who exploit the circle of economic opportunity.
There must be a number of lessons here;
1 When we pass the heavy industrial jobs down the street we must provide alternative employment in alternative fields. That means one thing, education that is appropriate for productive knowledge that is beyond those industries that we have exported. I.e. Consistent knowledge based education, a system that looks forward rather than backward in both arts and science.
2 We should learn that we have to pay for goods in terms of real value, not consistently force the market ever downwards unaware of the suffering we are imposing on emerging economies.
3 We have to stop the profiteering at the expense of emerging markets and the disproportionate margins that typify the few super rich whose greed (Conscious or unconscious) drives the exploitative nature of globalisation which most of us deplore. This includes the competitive international taxation systems which encourages tax avoidance on a global scale.
Items 2 and 3 above do not come naturally. Ask any house wife, rich or poor and they will tell you to buy at the best price is clearly common sense. Ask any man, rich or poor, and he will tell you that legally avoiding paying tax has to be a good idea.
Add to these entrenched ideas, of competitiveness and the corporate measure of success (shareholder value) and it is easy to see the unease with which global capitalism has come to pass.
The future holds great challenges, not least the transfer of wild consumerism from the West to the East. The West as it becomes more deindustrialised is seeing a wider and wider disparity between rich and poor. The loss of face of the poorer segments and consequently the loss of hope propels a sense of loss and hopelessness that knows no way forward except the desperate notion that any change will do.
Honest politicians have little if any idea how to create change to a fairer and more balanced economic world. One thing is for sure, economics means nothing without moral foundation.